The president reveals his inner Obama:
“We will support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice. Not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes; tolerance and opportunity, human dignity and justice. We the people declare today that most evident of truth that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.”
President Obama touched on LGBT rights and marriage equality in his second inaugural address yesterday, becoming the first to do so among 43 men who have steered the country since 1789. “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
He also reemphasized his position in the looming debate over immigration reform. “Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity.”
The day after, two questions haunt the minds of both progressives and conservatives alike: are we witnessing the arrival of a new Obama (who looks much like the old Obama of 2008), and does he have enough time to accomplish all he intends to before the midterm elections in 2014 effectively make him a lame-duck leader?
Obama seems keen to push ahead with sweeping reforms on gun control and immigration during the next several months, but the debt ceiling (and the foot stretched out in front of him that is the Republican Party) still threatens to trip him up in those efforts. The recession may be yesterday’s news, but hard times remain the soup du jour. And while the spirit of equality seems to be gaining favor in America, most Americans still worry about the health and security of their own dinner tables.
It’s hard to be in a giving mood when there isn’t even enough for yourself.
Still, at the end, progressives have no other choice than to be optimistic. If they become too confident that things won’t get done in these final months of an historic presidency, they can be sure that nothing will get done.
So, to my fellow progressives, stay firm. I know we’ve faced a harrowing headwind these past four years, but we must keep moving forward. If the right thing to do was the easy thing to do, everyone would do the right thing.
To my conservative friends, from what I understand we agree on the issues, but we disagree on how to solve them. This gulf between us has existed since time immemorial. The country finds itself at a fork in the road, but surely the best option isn’t to plop ourselves down and do nothing.
As the president said yesterday:
“Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time. For now, decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate. We must act. We must act knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.”
Hear, hear, Mr. President.